Lung cancer screening carries several risks, such as:

  • Undergoing unnecessary follow-up tests. If your lung CT scan shows a suspicious spot in your lung, you may need to undergo more-powerful scans that expose you to additional radiation and invasive tests, which carry serious risks. If these additional tests show that you don't have lung cancer, you may have been exposed to serious risks for no reason.
  • Finding cancer that's too advanced to cure. Advanced and aggressive lung cancers may not respond to treatment, so finding these cancers on a lung cancer screening test might not extend your life.
  • Finding cancer that may never hurt you. Doctors can't know which cancers will never grow to hurt you and which ones must be removed quickly to avoid harm. If you're diagnosed with lung cancer, your doctor will likely recommend treatment. But if the cancer would have remained small and confined for the rest of your life, the treatment may have been unnecessary.
  • Missing cancers. It's possible that lung cancer may be obscured or missed on your lung CT scan. In these cases, your results may indicate that you don't have lung cancer when you actually do.
  • Finding other health problems. People who smoke for a long time have an increased risk of other health problems, including lung and heart conditions that may be detected on a lung CT scan. If your doctor finds another health problem, you'll likely undergo further testing and, possibly, invasive treatments.
Apr. 10, 2014